Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Sacredness of Repeating Life

Consistently I find myself shaking my head and laughing, surprised by the teaching and the goodness that I find waiting on me in ordinary places.   I'm finding it nestled within seemingly monotonous morning conversations.. on the porches of coffee shops, during traffic stalled on the interstate, even while clinging to boulders while rock-climbing.  Time after time,  I am discovering that simply because we have experienced an event once, and learned from it once..  that event should not dictate our perception of repeating it.      I am discovering, that whenever we turn down an offer to "engage" life, be it physically or metaphorically, we are usually doing so because we assume a certain outcome - we are placing parameters on the possibility of the experience..  and in essence, robbing ourselves of any further revelations.

This is how we learned to experience life as children...  we act, we feel, we decided if we liked it or if we disliked it, and then we move on.  But I don't believe this is truly how our life was meant to be lived -  decided and finished.  Now that we have grown a little, perhaps we should broaden our expectation -  maybe there is more to learn than we often suppose.
 There is this undulating sacredness to repeating life..  rippling through even the most common things.  It is sacred because nothing is ever the same..  everything is in a constant state of motion and renewal, and cyclical rejuvenation.  We are actuality never "repeating" an experience..  because it is always reborn into the moment.  Re-entering the experiences that the universe offers to us, from friends, from strangers, from our intuition, (even the ones we find uncomfortable, or awkward)  this repetition is a revelation dressed in ordinary clothes.    

My petition to the universe tonight, is to claim open-ness in circumstances that I believe I have already perfected.
  Not decided.   Not determined.  Not knowing.   Simply open... and expectant of goodness. 

Andrew Tipton

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


"If we are convinced that the ones controlling the measure of goodness and safety in our lives are our rational human selves, we are sadly underestimating the level of conspiracy abounding in the universe."      

Andrew Tipton

Friday, May 16, 2014

to feel as a thousand lions

420 Polaroid Land Camera / expired film.   Rural Alabama.   

Andrew Tipton

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

By Thou a Catalyst

This past weekend was the 41st Annual Appalachian Dulcimer Festival in rural Alabama.     The festival is one of my favorite events to attend when I am fortunate enough to spend spring in the South!   There are gorgeous hand-built instruments, talented folk musicians, homemade Southern cookin', and best of all... genuine, beautifully simple people.    If you want to truly experience the feel and effortless, backwoods romanticism of Alabama..  this is the place to invest a few days of your time.  You will receive joy. 

I am probably the youngest participant in the event..  by a long shot.  I get stares, I get inquisitive eyebrow raises..  and people always seem to think I just accidentally wandered up.    In a group of mainly Southerners in their mid-seventies..  I am a social anomaly.    And I prefer it that way.    I have learned that looking different from the majority here is actually a very powerful asset..  it means people seek me out, they ask me questions,  they tell me their stories, they are eager to listen to my music, as well as my thoughts... and I to theirs. 

For me, there are two reasons why I come here.  The first, is to be taught.   This is a slice of old-Southern culture that will not last much longer, and I am grateful to be able to experience it first hand.   From learning traditional methods of strumming, to the history of dulcimer designs,  to the gospel songs that have become woven through generations.  It is a gift to be with these people.. to watch and to listen and absorb their muchness.    They have taught me gentleness and respect for my birthplace. 

The second reason I attend the festival is very intentional..  I see myself as a catalyst for the method and expression of this style of music.   I desire to intentionally cause a commotion.   Offering songs that scratch at the the predictable diaphragm of the culture... and demonstrate the malleability of an instrument that is commonly stereotyped.    Since I first picked up a mountain dulcimer,  I have never wanted to "master" the way it is usually played..    instead I have a vision for a way it might evolve.    It is one thing to become a great musician and effectively play an instrument..  it is another entirely to attempt to undermine the way an instrument is perceived -  and perhaps open people's minds to the next chapter in its evolution.  
I believe that if a person who has experienced the dulcimer in a specific way their entire life can suddenly hear it played in a "new light",  it might just allow them to see themselves in a "new light" as well.   Often times when an experience has become so common.. we do not imagine that it was ever a different way.. or that it could ever become a different way.    But all it takes is one person showing us something contrary.. then our perception of "what is possible" is forever expanded.    
After a finishing a song this weekend..  a elderly man came over and touched my shoulder..  "I never knew the dulcimer could be played like that..."  he said grinning..  "..well done."  
The man's words stuck in my head..  and got me thinking about the prophet Jesus.  Recently, as I have read through verses in the Bible, I am beginning to see Jesus as a person who fundamentally questioned what tradition had "set in stone"  - A catalyst if you will...  for the evolution of the human experience in relation to god.    I respect that very much.   He was a person who took traditional, cliché thought.. and flipped it upside down - allowing people to see life from a radically different perspective.  Repetitively blowing minds.. is a way to describe his lifestyle...   as men we should want the same.   

 "Be thou a Catalyst."    

Andrew Tipton